Track and Field Wears Ruby Slippers to Finals

After a solid performance from the UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams at the Occidental Invitational earlier this month, 16 Triton athletes qualified for the NCAA Division-II Championships in Emporia, Kan.

Greg Dale/Guardian
The 16 UCSD athletes heading to the NCAA Division-II Track and Field championships in Emporia, Kan., represent the largest group of Triton athletes ever to compete in the event. Many of them qualified for the championships at the Occidental Invitational on May 13.

“It exceeded all expectations, with women’s track finishing first and men’s track second this season,” head coach Tony Salerno said.

UCSD sent fewer than a quarter of its athletes to Occidental, but still posted six standout performances that earned NCAA provisional qualifying times.

Senior Jon Patton improved his personal best time in the 400-meter hurdles with a mark of 51.49 seconds. Freshman Daniel Anderson had his best time all year in the 800 at 1:52.73, an NCAA provisional qualifying time. Also, senior Mike Cunningham made a great effort in the 400, as his mark of 48.00 seconds was a provisional time and the second fastest in school history.

Greg Dale/Guardian
The UCSD track and field teams earned six NCAA Division-II provisional qualifying times at the the Occidental Invitational, held on May 13. Including the six new marks, the Tritons will be sending 16 competitors to the NCAA Championsips on May 25 through 27.

The UCSD men’s 4×400 squad met an NCAA provisional qualifying time with 3:13.73, and became the holders of a new school record. It won its race by nearly four full seconds, blowing away the competition.

On the women’s side, senior Mimi Hodgins finished sixth in the 800, posting an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 2:11.98. The 4×400 relay team also had success, winning its race with a time of 3:49.03.

“They feel real good, the women competed really well,” said Salerno. “They are confident as they have ever been.”

The Tritons could use the confidence heading into the D-II championships, which will include 16 Tritons.

Approximately 620 student-athletes qualified for the championships by reaching the automatic and provisional standards for each event, meaning the 16 UCSD athletes will have plenty of competition. The Tritons will participate in four of the men’s events and nine on the women’s side.

“The average number of athletes in the D-II championship is about two per school, so we’ll have one of the bigger groups in the competition,” Salerno said.

All four athletes participating in the men’s events are seniors, including Brad Lubuit, who enters with the 16th-best mark in the nation in javelin at 200 feet. Senior Carl Lostrom will compete for the second-straight year in the 3,000 steeplechase. He has recorded the ninth-fastest mark in D-II this season with his time of 9:10.97.

Patton and Cunningham will both run in the 400 hurdles as they enter the race with the eighth and 11th-fastest times in the country, respectively. Patton will also compete in the 110 high hurdles.

The 12 Tritons competing on the women’s side will be participating in nine events. After a strong showing in the last competition, senior Sandy Schaefer, junior Elisa Holiday, sophomore Amber Green and freshman Katie Skorupa have a chance to win the 4×400 title. They recently set a school record with a qualifying time of 3:48.39, which is the 11th-fastest in the country this year.

Freshmen Jillian Sola and Sarah Hendy will both compete in the discus for the Tritons. Sola’s mark of 154 feet, 3/4 inches ranks sixth in the nation, but she will look to improve at nationals.

Senior Briana Hinga enters the javelin competition as a favorite, ranked the No. 1 thrower in the country this year after her recent throw of 151 feet, 1 1/2 inches.

Hodgins will go for the win in the 800, the same event in which she placed second at last year’s national championship meet. Sophomore Diane Dunn has the eighth-fastest time in the 1,500 this year at 4:33.34, and will also put up a fight to bring home a national title. Sophomore Emily McGregor will run in the 5,000 race, qualifying with a mark of 17:25.47.

Sophomore Laiah Blue will be the only female athlete to compete in two events for UCSD. She will run in both the 100 and 400 hurdles. She set a school record in the 100 hurdles with her time of 13.87 earlier this year, while her mark of 61.93 seconds in the 400 hurdles is the 20th-fastest time in D-II this season.

“We expect to compete well,” Salerno said. “Any time you’re in the top 10 in the nation, you have a chance to win.”

The Tritons will try their chances against the nation’s best May 25-27.